Keep your eyes on the road. Obviously, it’s good advice, but it doesn’t speak to your other senses. For example, think about the amount of work your ears are doing while driving. You’re using your ears to connect with other individuals in your vehicle, call your attention to important information appearing on your dashboard, and help you monitor other vehicles.
So how you drive can change if you’re going through hearing loss. That’s not to say your driving will come to be excessively dangerous. When it comes to safety, inexperience and distracted driving are far bigger liabilities. Still, some special precautions should be taken by individuals with hearing loss to ensure they keep driving as safely as possible.
Developing good driving habits can go a long way to help you remain a safe driver even if hearing loss may be influencing your situational awareness.
How your driving may be impacted by hearing loss
Vision is the primary sense utilized when driving. Even full-blown hearing loss most likely won’t stop you from driving, but it very likely may change the way you drive. While driving you do use your hearing a lot, after all. Here are some typical examples:
- Audible alerts will sound when your car is trying to alert you to something, like an unbuckled seat belt or an open door.
- Your sense of hearing can help you have a better sense of other vehicles near you. You will usually be able to hear an oncoming truck, for example.
- If another motorist needs to make you aware of their presence, they will often beep their horn. If you fail to notice the light turn to green, for instance, or you start to wander into the other lane, a horn can alert you before it becomes a problem.
- Emergency vehicles can often be heard before they can be seen.
- Your hearing will usually alert you when your car is damaged in some way. If your engine is knocking or you have an exhaust leak, for example.
All of these audio cues can help develop your overall situational awareness. You could start to miss more and more of these audio cues as your hearing loss progresses. But you can practice some positive steps to keep your driving as safe as possible.
New safe driving habits to develop
If you’re experiencing hearing loss and you want to continue to drive, that’s fine! Stay safe out on the road using these tips:
- Keep interior noise to a minimum: Hearing loss is going to make it hard for your ears to differentiate noises. It will be easy for your ears to get overstimulated and for you to get distracted if you have passengers loudly talking and music playing and wind in your ears. So when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to reduce the volume on your radio, keep discussions to a minimum, and put up your windows.
- Put your phone away: Well, this is good advice whether you suffer from hearing loss or not. Today, one of the leading reasons for distraction is a cellphone. And that goes double when you try to use them with hearing loss. You will simply be safer when you put your phone away and it could save your life.
- Don’t ignore your dash lights: usually, when you need to give attention to your instrument panel, your vehicle will beep or make some other sound. So you’ll want to be sure to glance down (when it’s safe) and confirm your turn signals aren’t still on, or your check engine light isn’t on.
- Check your mirrors more often: You may not be able to hear an ambulance pull up behind you–even with all those sirens going. So be vigilant about checking your mirrors. And keep the possible presence of emergency vehicles in mind.
How to keep your hearing aid ready for driving
Driving is one of those activities that, if you are dealing with hearing loss, a hearing aid can really be helpful. And when you’re driving, use these tips to make your hearing aids a real asset:
- Keep your hearing aids clean, updated, and charged: When you’re half way to the store, the last thing you want is for your battery to die. That can distract you and may even bring about a dangerous situation. So make certain everything is working properly and the batteries are charged.
- Have us dial in a driving setting for you: We can program a car setting into your hearing aid if you do a lot of driving. The size of the interior of your vehicle and the fact that your passengers will be talking to you from the side or rear will be the variables we will use to fine tune this “car setting” for easier safer driving.
- Each time you drive, use your hearing aid: If you don’t use it, it can’t help! So each time you drive, make certain you’re wearing your hearing aids. This will also help your brain get used to the sounds your hearing aid sends your way.
Lots of people with hearing loss continue to drive and hearing aids make the process safer and easier. Your drive will be enjoyable and your eyes will stay focused on the road if you establish safe driving habits.